Behind the scenes with The Wombats

A camper van, smoke machine and some dodgy deckchairs by the side of the road. It can only be... erm... The Wombats' latest video shoot.
The Wombats are on a tight schedule. They have just over twelve hours in Ireland, and in that time they need to do some press, and film footage for the music video for their new single ‘Lemon to a Knife Fight’. They’ll get it all in the bag, but by the end of the day, everyone will be running on fumes. The pace also means that the only time the band have to chat is in the van that has just pulled up outside the studio in Dublin 12, ready to take them to the video location.

The Wombats clamber into the back of the taxi and settle down in a row. Drummer Dan Haggis is effusive, bass player Tord Øverland Knudsen is quieter, while frontman Murph is exhausted and getting more bleary-eyed by the second. It’s already been a massive day, and it’s not even 3pm yet. As the van trundles its way out of town and onto the motorway, the warehouses and canals of outer Dublin fade into the distance.

Have they got particularly fond memories of the city?

Dan grins. “Oooh, here we go!”

Murph laughs and buries his face in his hands, knowing exactly what the response is going to be. Then he resigns himself to his fate.

“Haggis is gonna take this one,” he says.

“I’ve been here many a time, but one of my favourite Dublin memories was my 21st birthday. I invited a load of friends and family, and we had a boozy weekend,” says Dan. “We started at 6am in Liverpool Airport – that was my Dad instigating the first Guinness.”

Murph chuckles. “My red velvet jacket never really recovered from that trip.”

“Murph’s red velvet jacket got destroyed while on his body, and he wasn’t even aware of it. He didn’t know what was going on,” Dan laughs. “That was a real bad one, that.”

This is the problem with old friends. They know too much.

“Another great time was the Arthur Guinness 250th anniversary. We played at Whelan’s and then had to go across to a little pub and do an acoustic thing. That was awesome,” says Dan.

“I remember asking someone where the toilets were, and she said ‘Argh, just piss in me Guinness!’” says Murph. “I don’t know whether that was a real offer or not.”

By comparison, today’s Irish jaunt is fairly sedate. With this morning’s photo shoot done and dusted without incident, we’re being whisked off to Crossdoney, County Cavan, so that the band can shoot the video for their latest single ‘Lemon to a Knife Fight’.

“It’s directed by Finn Keenan who did the ‘Greek Tragedy’ video [in 2015], which is one of our favourites. He had this idea he was passionate about and we were like, ‘Of course’,” says Murph.

“We just put all our trust in him,” Tord agrees. “Finn will smash it.”

“Thematically it’s a little bit in the same world as ‘Greek Tragedy’ in that there’s a gang of cowboys hunting… at first you think it’s just a woman and then she turns into a werewolf, and they want to kill the werewolf for sport,” Dan explains. “But then she ends up killing them all and gets in the car and drives off. Right?”

He glances around at his bandmates. “Something like that. It’s gonna be really gory, basically.”

“Is it B-movie gore or full-on, nasty ‘Greek Tragedy’ gore?” Murph asks.

“Hopefully it will be very gory. Like Quentin Tarantino,” Dan says.

Photo: Tom Oxley

With a big anniversary behind them and the circus that will come with their upcoming fourth album ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ not fully in gear yet, the Wombats are in the eye of the hurricane. That’s just as well – it’s been a big year. Back in June, the band planned to mark the 10th birthday of their debut album ‘A Guide to Love, Loss, and Desperation’ with what they’d originally conceived of as a one-off celebratory gig. But somewhere along the way that show turned into a tour, with their Brixton Academy date selling out in less than twenty-four hours. So naturally, the next step was for the Wombats to take the show to the other side of the world, where they also sold out the Sydney Opera House. Twice.

[sc name=”pull” text=”Being in a band’s quite a weird life, isn’t it?” ]

“Those shows were amazing,” says Dan. “Initially we were like, ‘Oh 2017, we should probably do some sort of little show,’ and then before we knew it, we were playing the Sydney Opera House twice. There were people dressed as wombats on the stage. It was all pretty surreal.”

“Wombats-slash-mice,” Murph corrects. “But they were pretty good wombat costumes, to be fair.”

“Most of the ones you look up online look like little bears, don’t they? We had to have them custom made,” Dan says.

“It was a big deal,” adds Tord. “We had so many email threads about the costumes; you wouldn’t believe it. It was ridiculous.”

“We did Brixton, which is one of our favourite venues to play in the UK, and Liverpool, and Glasgow. But it was only Sydney that had the wombat-mice, because the costumes were supposed to be getting flown back from Australia, but they didn’t make it back in time,” Dan says. “They sent them with like two weeks to spare because it took ages to actually clean them. And then when they did send them Australian customs held them up massively because they were like, ‘Hmm, a band sending stuffed costumes abroad… something smells a bit dodgy here.’”

While the past has much to celebrate, a decade on from their debut, the Wombats are still operating as though the best is yet to come. It’s entirely possible that it is, too. They’ve already booked in two major headline tours for 2018, not to mention a support slot for Weezer and Pixies’ double headline tour in the US next summer. Besides, their new single ‘Lemon to a Knife Fight’ has all the markings of a classic Wombats anthem.

The track was written after an argument Murph had on Los Angeles’ famed Mulholland Drive, and lyrically captures the sense of knowing you’re headed for a losing battle but ploughing in anyway. It encapsulates some of the ongoing themes of the tracks on ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’; the push-pull change of adulthood, and the sneaking suspicion that you might be in over your head.

“Being in a band’s quite a weird life, isn’t it? And throwing a kid into the mix, and marriage, and living in different places, you’ve got to be malleable,” says Dan.

“I think being in a band you just enter this state of arrested development for quite a long time and then all of a sudden you fucking pop out of it and you don’t know what’s going on. That’s how it’s definitely felt for me,” Murph considers. “But I think this album lyrically it’s a lot about a boy wrestling with more mature adult themes and not necessarily winning the fight.” He pauses for a moment to turn this thought over. “Maybe occasionally winning the fight,” he decides.

As the traffic slows and acres of farmland unspool beyond the windows, it’s clear we’re getting closer to the location for today’s shoot. Before too long the van deposits us on the side of a back road in Crossdoney. The set features a Winnebago, a tiny prefabricated shop, and not much else. As the sun’s gone down the weather has turned, and a cold rain now hangs in the air. Within minutes everyone is shivering, damp hair stuck to their foreheads. Murph, Tord, and Dan settle into a trio of rickety-looking deckchairs for their opening shot. Someone flips a switch and smoke billows out from underneath the Winnebago. A vintage muscle car slides through the shot, and a bloodied tennis ball sails overhead and into Murph’s outstretched hand. The Wombats are engulfed in a cloud of smoke, the cameras rolling on their next phase.

The Wombats’ new album ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ is out 9th February 2018. Taken from the December 2017 / January 2018 issue of Dork. Order a copy here.

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